This was a compelling read, but not at all delightful. It is sad, and tragic, and doesn’t really even have a hopeful ending. Yet for some reason, I still highly recommend it. Maybe because it’s not necessarily depressing, and there is humor to be found in it.
The Scheeres family adopted an African American boy, David, at the age of three. In the 70’s. While living in rural Indiana. As far as multi-racial adoptions go, this is probably as bad as it can get. Even his own adoptive parents despised his blackness, and did little to defend or protect him from Middle America (turn the other cheek!). How this boy got placed in this family I will never know. As far as I’m concerned, it should never have happened. And not because of the racial differences, but because they obviously didn’t want him.
He and Julia are the same age – merely four months apart. A few times in the book she refers to herself and David as twins. They are close, made closer by huddling together against a racist culture and a dysfunctional family. Because on top of everything else? Julia and David’s parents are Christians of the rediculous* kind – legalistic and… ridiculous. I don’t know better how to explain it. I’ve known this kind of ridiculousness, personally, and barely survived it with my faith intact (it should be noted my family was not the source of ridiculousness. I attended a ridiculous church for several years in my 20’s).
While Davita’s Harp was a novel that read like a memoir, Jesus Land, by Julia Scheeres, is a memoir that reads like a novel. It’s filled with dialog, and I often wondered how she could remember so vividly word for word. I’ve heard it said that memoirs are often embellished for the sake of narrative effect, and I wonder if that is the case here? Hopefully not, especially to the extreme of these authors (thanks for the link, Julie!).
At any rate, her narrative is good and compelling, and she tells her story well. As a potential memoir-ist, I found this style of memoir (narrative) to be an interesting contrast to Anne Lamott’s style (essay). I see myself as more of an essayist, and after reading this narrative (with all my suspicions of reasonable memory), I’m inclined to stick with my choice.
*Spell checker indicated I spelled this word wrong, but instead of clicking on the correct spelling of the word, I accidentally clicked on “add to dictionary.’ So not only is the incorrect spelling now a part of my blogging vernacular, I STILL don’t know how to properly spell it.